Burrell, Huntington gain national recognition

Two Mississippi State student advisers are receiving major recognitions from a national association for their efforts to assist students.

Instructor Carolyn E. Huntington of the university's animal and dairy sciences department and Rita A. Burrell, graduate and distance education manager for the Bagley College of Engineering, each will receive honors this fall from the National Academic Advising Association.

Huntington, also interim academic coordinator for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has been chosen for an Outstanding Advising Award in NACADA's faculty academic advising category. Burrell is a selection for an Outstanding Advising Certificate of Merit in the primary role category.

Huntington and Burrell, along with other winners, officially accept the honors at the association's Oct. 2-5 annual conference at Denver, Colo. Earlier, the Mississippi State women advanced to the national competition after being selected for the university's 2011 Irvin Atly Jefcoat Excellence in Advising Awards.

Since 1983, NACADA has honored individuals and institutions making significant contributions to the improvement of academic advising. The organization of more than 10,000 members seeks to promote quality academic advising and professional development of faculty, professional advisers, administrators and others to enhance student development.

Over the years, MSU nominees consistently have been among top NACADA winners.

Along with advising duties, Huntington teaches courses, mentors in the freshman Day One Leadership program and co-advises the Block and Bridle Club.

While valuing each of her campus roles, Huntington said advising rates as a high priority. She maintains an open-door policy for students and works constantly to make students feel comfortable speaking about both personal and academic issues.

"It requires an appropriate amount of patience, honesty and empathy," Huntington said. "It's one of the most gratifying professional experiences of my career."

Courtney Brown of Yazoo City is an animal and dairy sciences graduate who recently began studies in the College of Veterinary Medicine. She recalled first meeting Huntington while visiting campus as a "nervous high school senior" who was struggling to decide on the best undergraduate major for pursuing a veterinary career.

"Through my years at Mississippi State, Dr. Huntington has always been a faculty member I could count on," Brown said. "Anytime I had a problem, she set aside whatever she was doing to help."

Bagley College of Engineering students interested in graduate and distance learning programs often have their initial MSU contact with Burrell, a veteran of more than 25 years of campus experience.

Engineering majors typically discuss with Burrell everything from financial aid to types of technology required for distance learning courses to personal issues affecting their studies. Like Huntington, Burrell said she enjoys seeing students advance in their pursuit of an advanced degree.

"It is particularly gratifying when students choose MSU, and after settling in, will stop to thank me for the assistance I provided them," she said.

Burrell's contact with many distance-learning students is almost daily, including weekends and holidays.

For Thomas A. Gilmore, interaction with Burrell began eight time zones away while he was working in Russia. An Arkansas native with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from MSU, he credits her assistance for enabling him to complete a master's degree in mechanical engineering.

Gilmore said he appreciated the daily support from Burrell to help with any obstacles as he advanced in the program.

"She became my advocate and voice on campus while I was unable to be in Starkville, Mississippi, or even the United States," Gilmore said.

For more information, contact Dr. Huntington at 662-325-2936 or chuntington@ads.msstate.edu; Burrell at 662-325-5923 or rburrell@bagley.msstate.edu.

Robbie S. Ward | University Relations

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